HOA dues, transfer fees, debt collection fees, special assessments, legal fees (law suits and HOA lawyers) can become overwhelming and home owners have little control over any of these financial obligations. Worse yet, if these fees and assessments aren't paid on time you can be fined without limit and have your home foreclosed for the smallest amount. Add to this the infamous $100 a month debt notification letters from the HOA lawyers that are not contestable. Try to sell your home in an HOA and you can be assessed a transfer fee ranging from $150 to over $1,000 without any justification or explanation. If you don't pay it you can't sell the home. Then you can be stuck for the cost of your HOA Board entering into costly litigation or a capital improvement projects without home owner knowledge or approval resulting in thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars in special assessments. If the HOA Board is reckless with finances and drains the reserve funds all home owners can be assessed an amount to replenish the fund and this can be very substantial: don't pay it and the amount owed will compound and also can lead to foreclosure. Your monthly HOA fee can also increase without home owner approval and without limit and it's pay it, pay it on time, or more excessive fees and assessments. One more thought about all these HOA fees if you live in a gated community. Even though you pay county and other state and local taxes for street maintenance and snow removal, the local governmental entity will not provide snow removal or street maintenance and repair in your HOA (you pay through HOA dues).
Most HOA dues and assessments are legitimate and support the operations and maintenance of the community. It is also true that what one home owner doesn't pay in dues others must make up for so reasonable penalties are appropriate. However, the abusive and reckless authority of some HOA Boards in (mis)managing a community are weakly constrained by HOA governing documents or State law. These ruling documents mostly require home owners to contest HOA Board behavior and burdensome assessments in our costly, litigious, and time consuming court system. Thus HOA law enforcement from the home owners perspective involves the limited financial resources of a home owner against the unlimited bank account of the HOA: a pay to play legal system favoring HOA Boards.
The HOA living environment can provide home owners with a rewarding life style. Most communities involve some form of HOA governance and it is mostly impossible to buy a home in a new development without an HOA. Understanding HOA governance and home owner's rights and financial responsibilities prior to moving into an HOA is incumbent upon the home buyer and will mitigate post purchase problems.